Wednesday, May 28, 2003

On John Lennon:

The Beatles were cool but they're overrated. They certainly did manage to put Elvis and Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly and all the other R&B and C&W guys together into a new and coherent sound, which all popular music since has been influenced by. But a lot of people, especially the Beach Boys and Bob Dylan, were well ahead of the Beatles as regarding a lot of innovations often credited to the Beatles. They were great and they were hugely important, but a lot of Beatle fans' attitude: that there was nothing between 1963 and 1969 that could possibly compare with those years of the Beatles, is shortsighted and navel-gazing.

I really think that John Lennon's most personal album was "Rock and Roll", the one he did in about '74 of covers of old rock and roll tunes. It's actually a pretty crappy album; why would you want to hear John Lennon singing, badly, Little Richard rather than Little Richard himself? Lennon was very mediocre as a musician. He did have soul, though, he had spirit, he sang his balls off, no one can deny him that, at least if he wasn't fucked up, which he seems to have been most of the time.

The "Rock and Roll" album really tells you where Lennon was coming from, the kind of blues-country-swing-gospel that made him want to become a musician. The man had terrific taste, we've got to say that for him. His albums like "Plastic Ono Band" and "Imagine" always sounded completely full of crap to me, full of phony flavor-of-the-month stupidities like "bagism" and that primal scream crap and that BS pseudo-hindu-buddhism and those songs he did along with Yoko, all automatically crap by definition

But "Rock and Roll" is spirited. Lennon chooses songs to cover that actually kick some ass. No better than ten thousand garage bands could do in an old rock-and-roll cover set in a biker bar, but at the very least spirited. That's the John Lennon I like, not the "Two Virgins" crapmonger--the ballsy kid who brought a new, rough sound to rock and roll, carefully modulated by his friend, the golden-eared and highly professional Paul McCartney, back in the nineteen-sixties.

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